If You’re Overweight or Smoke, It’s Going to Cost You

The Affordable Care Act allows employers to penalize people who don’t participate in voluntary wellness programs or meet certain fitness goals.

Employers say we aren’t pulling our own weight on health care costs, so we need to lose a few pounds. And quit smoking already.

They’ve got ways to make us do it, Reuters says — since offering free screenings, discounted gym memberships and gift cards apparently didn’t work.

“Some will even force employees to meet weight goals, quit smoking and provide very personal information or pay up to thousands more annually for healthcare,” Reuters says. Nearly 40 percent of large American companies will raise premiums or deductibles for employees who don’t meet its goals. That’s double the number who said in 2011 they would do so, and by 2015 it may be up to two-thirds of large employers.

Companies can require employees to participate in wellness programs or achieve and maintain a certain body mass index to receive full benefits, Reuters says. Smokers may get hit with monthly fees. Proctor & Gamble plans to charge smoking employees $25 per month next year until they make it through a company-paid cessation program.

And it’s not just private employers. Wisconsin and Washington State plan to charge smoking employees hundreds more per year, Reuters says.

Is it fair? Even those kinds of charges don’t make up the difference employers pay, research suggests. “A recent Ohio State University study found that businesses pay nearly $6,000 more annually per employee who smokes compared with a nonsmoker,” Reuters says. Is it legal? Yes. It’s one of the less famous parts of Obamacare.

“Under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, companies can offer a reward of up to 30 percent of healthcare costs paid by the employee to those who complete voluntary programs like smoking cessation, a risk assessment or biometric tests like waist measurement,” Reuters says. “Courts so far have shown little resistance to such programs.”

Is your employer setting wellness goals or other restrictions on your health benefits? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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  • Bill D

    why should I have to pay for overweight people and smokers?

  • ponce

    I understand that they are also looking to charge more to insure gay men, as they are far more likely to contract HIV/AIDS, and women, who are far more likely to get pregnant.

  • Charles Hammond

    How come smoking is bad, but not Drinking? What about people taking anti-depressants?

  • Charles Hammond

    How about mandatory yearly drug screenings?

  • Charles Hammond

    Can you put a price on an overweight person? How about the price for an employee that has ski accident, is injured playing Softball or mountain climbing or horseback riding? Then there are the people that drive motorcycles. Definite health risks. Then the people that run too much and get shin splints and bed feet. Too much of anything is bad for you.

  • Charles Hammond

    Why should I have to pay for a drug addicted drunk man doing all kinds of stupid stuff and then needs a new liver or kidney transplant? You can get all kinds of diseases overnight that can cost money. Parkinsons disease, Alzheimers, Diabetes and other myriad list of misc. diseases like MS. Any one of those you could say, why do we have to pay for that. Why is a skinny person worth less than an overweight person? So you going to also refuse to pay for bulimia which the opposite of obesity?

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